Tuesday, September 13, 2016

My Secret Dream of Becoming a Clothing Designer

It's not something I generally advertise, but did you know that my college degree is in Home Economics? And that outside of work, I am a passionate knitting designer and long-time athlete? These things have come together recently in a way that allowed me to expand my designing beyond just my usual computer work. I recently submitted a dress design idea to a women's sportswear company and my idea gathered enough votes to go up for pre-orders.


They turned my rough sketch into a real design in print and in black, which is up for sale on the Skirt Sports website.




Skirt Sports asked me to write up a little background about the inspiration behind this dress design. In it, I share about my love of freedom of movement, being comfortable, and how that combined with my need for high-performance professional clothing. You can read the entire article here: The Brains, Beauty and Brawn Behind the Out & About Dress


Monday, September 12, 2016

How to Change the Text Size in Measurement Tool In Acrobat DC

I did a search for this topic this morning, and apparently, people have been wondering about this going back for about a decade, or whenever the Measuring Tool was added in to Acrobat. I do need to give a disclaimer that this is a kludgy workaround, and bypasses Acrobat's lack of built-in functionality for this feature. So here we go!

1. Start by opening the Measure Tool and measuring the object.



2. Next, go to your commenting tools and make a new text comment. You can use either there regular Add Text Comment tool, or the text box tool. Basically, we're just need to use one of the tools that gives us access to the text properties editing. Then using the Text Properties tool, type in the distance that Acrobat generated above when you measured your object. In this case, it is 1.5 in. Then change the font size to whatever you prefer. You can change the color as well if you like.


3. Next, select the text n the text comment you just made. Copy it.

4. Open the Comments pane. Select the distance measurement in the "Line" comment.


5. Paste in the text that you copied from the text box tool. Violá! Larger type!



Now, I wish there was a way to make this the default, but since Acrobat doesn't have text size as one of the editable properties of the measure tool, the size of the type isn't taken into consideration when you choose "Make Properties Default."


However, you can have access to edit a number of other properties of the Dimension Line, just not type size. If you need to have larger type Dimension Line type on a regular basis, I would imagine that an Acrobat scripter could easily write a script to do just that.



Friday, September 9, 2016

How to Use The Acrobat DC Highlighter Tool

Recently, Acrobat upgraded the highlighter tool so that you can highlight non-text objects. But most people aren't aware of the upgrade because it only works on scanned pages or pages with raster objects on them. Nevertheless, it's an interesting functionality. It's not quite as user-friendly as I'd like, but it's handy to be aware of. Enjoy!


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Are Your Sticky Note Icons Too Small? Make them Bigger!

Though I've grown to like Acrobat DC, one of my ongoing complaints about it is that it is too difficult to see which annotations are selected. Take a look at the following examples:

Acrobat 9
Acrobat XI
Acrobat DC
Notice how the sticky notes in both Acrobat 9 and XI had nice thick blue borders around them. But notice how delicate and thin the border is on the sticky note in Acrobat DC. While I realize that the Acrobat UI designers probably wanted to make the sticky notes less obtrusive, now they can be quite difficult to see. If I have multiple sticky notes on a very complex page, it's easy for those tiny little blue lines to get lost.

Also, something that is not apparent in these little screenshots is that in Acrobat 9 and XI, the blue lines around the sticky notes were actually marching ants. They had a very subtle blink to them, while the blue line around the DC icon does not blink at all, making it even more difficult to locate the sticky note on the page.

I recently stumbled across an older thread on the Acrobat forums that discussed how to increase the size of sticky notes. AND IT IS GOLD!

The first sticky note on the left is a normal sized sticky note. If you keep running the script, you keep increasing the size of your sticky notes. Now you can easily see it on the page!


This scripting goodness is courtesy of Try67, Acrobat scripter extraordinaire.
Select your sticky note, open the JS console (Ctrl+J), enter this code, select it and press Ctrl+Enter:
var r = selectedAnnots[0].rect;
r[2] += r[2]-r[0];
r[3] += r[3]-r[1];
selectedAnnots[0].setProps({rect: r})
This script works in Acrobat X, XI, and DC.

Edit 8-19-16: Try67 recently adapted this script to also work on text annotations, such as cross-outs and underlines. It is available for sale for $50. Check it out!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Number Knitting #2: Colorizing Photos in Photoshop

In my efforts to republish the Number Knitting book, I am trying to recruit knitters to help me reknit all the patterns from the book, so that I can take new photographs. In order to breathe a bit of life back into the photographs, I am colorizing them in Photoshop.

Here is the photo as I originally scanned in it. It has low contrast and looks pretty boring.
Checkerboard Design Table Mat
I've been experimenting with a few different ways to colorize my images, and here's what I'm doing now. I'll likely change it up, as I get more sophisticated with colorizing. But I find this method to be pretty flexible for what I need.

1. So in Photoshop, I started by adjusting the curves. I just clicked Auto.

Auto Curves
2. I set the blend mode to multiply.
Set Blend Mode to Multiply
3. Then I created a new layer, moved it below the image, named it,  and went to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All. The first and most important thing to understand when working with masking is that black hides and white reveals. So I start by hiding everything, and then I'll paint in with white to reveal just the parts that I want to be blue.


4. Make sure that you have your pixels portion of your layer selected. See the little border around the transparent pixels in the image below?



5. Then go to Edit > Fill > Color > and choose a nice blue.


And the result is nothing so far. But now we'll start painting in the areas that we want to be blue. 

6. Select your paintbrush tool, and choose white for your foreground color. Start painting in around the parts that you want to be blue. Then fill in the area clean up the edges, adjusting your brush size and feather as needed. You can adjust your brush size using the [ and ] keys.

  • ] will increase the size of you brush.
  • [ will decrease the size of your brush.

You can also adjust the feather of your brush using the keyboard.

  • Shift + ] increases the hardness (decreasing the feather).
  • Shift + [ decreases the hardness (increasing the feather).



7. It looks pretty good, right? 


If you go to the Channels panel, and turn on the mask, you can see that there are still some areas that I missed. See the light red poking through the blue near the edges of the table mat?


Now I can more easily see those areas and fill them in.


8. Use this same technique to paint in all the Blue areas.


9. Then repeat this process for the light blue squares.


What I really like about this technique is that now, changing the colors is as easy as adding a different fill color.


You can even add a gradient fill, to mimic variegated yarns.


10. Now that I have the picture colored the way I want, I can choose some yarns to match it; Because the objective of this project is not just to colorize old photos, but to get people to knit these projects. The colors in Photoshop need to be a representation of the actual materials they'll be using the knit the pattern.

The original pattern calls for cotton yarn in an afghan weight. In modern day terms, that means a worsted weight yarn. Just this morning, I discovered some great worsted weight cotton yarn, in a variety of colors, at an affordable price. Conveniently, enough, it's called "Dishie" (because it is super durable and suitable for dishcloths and other kitchen-related tasks).  Cotton yarns are typically rather muted in color.


For my original colorway of blues, I'll choose Dishie in Blue and Azure.

But if you look at the original blue colored photo, the blues I chose are too intense.


By reducing the opacity of the blue layers, I can more closely match the color of the yarn that I'm specifying for the checkerboard table mat pattern. I reduced the Blue layer to 80% and the Light Blue layer to 60%.


Would you like to knit this pattern and provide photos for the book? If so, please let me know! I look forward to knitting with you!


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Number Knitting #1: My Quest to Republish "Number Knitting: The New All Way Stretch Method"

For around seven years now, this blog has focused primarily on the software I use for my publishing and design business: InDesign, Acrobat, and occasionally Illustrator and Photoshop. Once in awhile, some knitting related articles have snuck in, but they have always tied into the design software.

As of lately, my loves, publishing and knitting, are beginning to merge on an entirely new level. I have set out to republish an out-of-print knitting book from 1952. And it's quite an endeavor. It's not so simple as scanning the old book, running OCR, and giving the text a facelift. Oh no! If it was that simple, I could have this project done in a matter of weeks. Instead, recreating this book will take a year or more, perhaps several... and that's if I hustle, and get lots of help with the knitting.

The book I'm working to republish is called "Number Knitting" The New All Way Stretch Method." Most knitters (even very experienced ones) have never heard of this book, because it only had one printing, and it the the only knitting book that the author ever wrote. So once it was printed, that was it! It is very hard to come by, and if you can find a used copy for sale online, it will likely fetch around $150. But I have seen one for sale for as high as $900. I have never seen more than one for sale on Amazon at any one time.



But as this blog is still a graphic design blog, I'll keep all the really publishing-specific content regarding the book here on my blog.

Because I aim to document the process of recreating this book, I'll be sharing milestones along the way. Here are a few milestones thus far:

  • December 2015: Scanned in book (a library copy)
  • January 2016: Received my own purchased copy of the book!
  • January 2016: Began knitting the pieces in the book
  • February 2016: Submitted request to US Copyright Office for a copyright renew/transfer search
  • April 2016: Received word back from the Copyright Office that the copyright was never renewed or transferred. (So the original copyright protection expired in 1979.)
  • April 2016: Started knitting "Lambs and Butterflies" form the original patent application
Lambs and Butterflies pattern from original patent application



Are you interested in helping me knit the pieces from the book? Join us on Ravelry.
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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Sort Comments by Color, in Acrobat DC! FINALLY!


My workflow is heavily dependent upon color-coded comments in PDFs. For seven years now, I have used Acrobat 9 on a daily basis, because none of the newer versions of Acrobat offered any kind of way to sort comments by color.  In fact, neither Acrobat X, XI, or DC supported sorting comments by color, and I complained about it for years. I even made a YouTube video bemoaning this fact.

A few months ago, I wrote an article explaining a workaround that I had come up with to deal with the fact that Acrobat DC didn't support sorting comments by color. Basically, involved sacrificing your author name for the name of the color, and then sorting comments by author name.

I complained about this to everyone who would listen: I've blogged about it, mentioned it at conference and user group meetings (with a microphone); I've talked on the phone and emailed anyone at Adobe who would listen to me. For years!  Apparently, it finally sunk in. I don't know how many other voices in the Acrobat community were complaining about this feature that has been missing for the last seven years, but regardless, the feature has finally made it's way back into the toolset of the latest release of Acrobat. Hopefully now when Adobe decides (again) to completely redesign Acrobat, they won't fail to leave out this feature.

So let's see see how to works!

For reference: here is a color-coded document viewed in Acrobat 9, with its comments sorted by color.
Sort Comments by Color: Acrobat 9

Now here is the newly added Sort Comments by Color in Acrobat DC 2016 May and January release.
Sort Comments By Color: Collapsed
You can also expand each individual color to interact with just those comments, while still keeping the rest collapsed.

Sort Comments By Color: Expanded

Besides the ability to Sort Comments by Color, they also added a handy twirl-down to collapse the main colors. But this twirl-down doesn't just exist for colors, it works for all the sorting methods.  To Expand or Collapse all the comments, click on the Options button (little series of dots). Then choose Collapse All.


This is HUGE for me! There are still a few features I wish they would improve, or add, such as :
Comments Options: Acrobat XI
Acrobat 9: Commenting Toolbar: Narrow
Acrobat 9: Commenting Toolbar: Wide
Comments Selected in Various Versions of Acrobat
But finally, I can actually use Acrobat DC or my color-coded commenting needs.

Additional Thoughts

After some experimentation, I also found that Adobe added something new: called the "Color Picker." Its's very easy to use, and offers 18 different colors, which is plenty! Honestly, most people only have a few colors of highlighters on the cup in their desk, so I applaud the simplification of color choices.


But interestingly, they also still have the Properties Toolbar (Cmd/Ctrl + E). The Properties Toolbar has 40 different colors, which in my opinion, was too many. The icons were too small, and it was easy to choose the wrong color. But if you like the old Properties Toolbar, it is still there.

Old Properties Toolbar (Cmd/Ctrl + E)

But the Properties Toolbar is getting buggy, and I suspect that Adobe will eventually phase it out, as it now longer works with text comments. Now, you need to use the Text Formatting Tools (which are available as an option to customize your commenting tools so you don't have to visually sort through 20 different tools to find the one or two that you use regularly). To view the entire list of new features added, visit the Adobe website to see what's new in Acrobat DC.

For months now, I've been feeling frustrated with Adobe, and that the decision-makers aren't concerned with the needs of their users (unless of course, those users needed mobile link or the ability to sign contracts on a tablet or other fancy-new-whiz-bang features).

It sure is nice to know that there are actually people at Adobe who are listening, and are willing (and allowed) to design and implement features that only a small percentage of users need. I extend my heartfelt thanks to the Acrobat team for finally implementing these much-needed features.

Edit 5-16-16: After working with the improved commenting in Acrobat DC, I still have a few things on my wish-list, listed in order of importance: